The ways in which we appraise situations and develop a stress response hinge very much upon what is known as our Explanatory Style.

According to this article on written by Elizabeth Scott, Explanatory Styles refer to how people explain the events in their lives. It is part of how we process events, the meaning and symbols we attach to them, and how we determine if they are threats or challenges to ourselves. It is reframes how we perceive our selves and the world around us and certainly has a bearing on how much stress we develop as a result of perceived adversity.

How can we change how we appraise difficult situations then?

1. Seeing both sides of the story

When you are in the eye of the hurricane, it is difficult to detach from your emotions and biases to gain a view of the broader picture and develop a balanced appraisal of the situation on hand. However, setting aside time to exercise rationality and consider both the pros and cons, long term and short term repercussions, or external and internal causes can be instrumental in helping you make decisions. Moreover, it can also keep your judgment fair and balance your emotions.

If you are inclined towards self-blame, then considering the external causes of your mistakes and their inconsequentiality in the long run may help cushion the impact of dejection on your self-esteem and stress levels.

2. Seeking support

We all need support in our everyday grind, what more when we are in a arduous phase of our lives?

It may be useful to speak to someone you not only can trust and offers constructive and progressive advice, but also someone who understands the context of your woes. A colleague whom you know to be reliable, an ex-colleague-turned-friend, or even a college professor whom you are still in touch with, are all people you could turn to in times of hardship. However, it is more crucial to find someone who is supportive and considerate with their words rather than someone who understands the technicalities of the exact predicament you are in, because expressive support is more important than instrumental support in times of difficulty.

3. Positive self-affirmation

Every morning, think a positive thought to yourself. A positive thought in the morning sets the tone for the day ahead. It could be an affirmation about your capabilities, or a promise to yourself. By consistently reinforcing a set of positive self-beliefs, you boost your self-esteem and rewire your brain to appraise situations positively. Make optimism an important habit in your life, second only to coffee!

4. Change of environment

When you spend too much time dwelling on your problems in the same space, the direness of the situation easily gets blown out of proportions. However, a new environment can refresh your perspectives and help you unwind. Rather than seeing such a break as escapism or distraction, think of it as a necessary respite to help you destress and refocus better when you are back at work.

This works the same way as how people take a break before moving on to their next job, in order to rediscover fresh perspectives and recalibrate themselves.

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